Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

November 29, 2008 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

With all the hype, acclaim, and box office success that Judd Apatow and Co. (Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 40-Year-Old-Virgin) get nowadays, it’s easy to forget one of the pioneering American filmmakers that paved the way for raunchy comedies with heart.  Kevin Smith has been doing this stuff for years, and though some of his recent films aren’t as explicit, Smith was one of the first.  His latest, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, continues the recent trend of sexually-charged, foul-mouthed male-oriented comedies that feature a surprising amount of depth.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno follows two best friends, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), who’ve been living together since graduating from high school.  Their lives aren’t exactly going as planned when all of their bills become past due and they lose power and water to their apartment.  After attending their high school reunion, the two realize how pathetic their lives are and decide to make some drastic changes.  But, first thing’s first: fix their home situation.  Zack then suggests they make a porno, sell it to their high school classmates, and use the money to pay for rent and utilities.  Miri obviously protests, but the idea seems foolproof: it’ll be cheap and they know that someone will buy it.

What you see in the trailers is pretty much what follows: they find a producer, they cast for the film (neither Zack nor Miri want to star by themselves), and they build sets and costumes, all the while hijinks and shennanigans get in the way.  However, what the trailers don’t show you is how sweet the relationship between Zack and Miri ends up being.  Both realize how much they care for each other, and there are several scenes which showcase this.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is one scene in particular, when they are going through their first rehearsal with the full cast, when Miri starts to get an inkling of Zack’s true feelings.

Of course, there are some really explicit scenes, such as a few scenes of Lester (Jason Mewes) banging local stripper (and real-life pornstar) Stacey (Katie Morgan).  Lester also has one hilarious scene where he’s describing one of his favorite sexual activities to Zack.  It’s vulgar, but really funny.  The film also has a few really funny cameos from the Apatow Crew: most of the hilarity of the high school reunion sequence comes from Justin Long and Brandon Routh, Zack’s boss at the coffee shop is Gerry Bednob (the Indian guy from 40-Year-Old-Virgin), and Craig Robinson as Delaney the producer.

Craig Robinson deserves special notice because he’s quite possibly the funniest member of the cast.  While I didn’t find him all that funny in Pineapple Express, where he played one of the hitmen, and I only found him mildly amusing in his cameo in Knocked Up, I think he’s hilarious in The Office.  Here, Robinson gets to truly shine as he gets nearly as much screen time as the two leads and has some great one-liners.

So, the question remains: is Judd Apatow, with his stable of great comedic actors and proven success, the king of the raunchy-comedy-with-heart genre?  Or did one of the original visionaries from the early-90’s manage to take the title back?  It’s unfair to say, as Kevin Smith, as a writer and director, does work of varied themes (Clerks II is quite different from Chasing Amy, which is different from Jersey Girl).  But why can’t there be room at the top for more than one?  Kevin Smith writes with a sincerity that some of the Apatow-produced films lack, and that gives the audience something more to enjoy, aside from funny sex jokes, and naked women. 

Zack and Miri Make a Porno, I believe, is going to go down as one of Smith’s best movies, and definitely Seth Rogen’s best lead role to-date.  The movie is hilarious where it needs to be, and genuinely touching when it has to be.  Audience should be able to relate to these characters, despite their unusual way of making a quick buck.  Don’t let the explicit nature of the title fool you, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a great holiday movie (just don’t bring the whole family).

8.5/10 (check the My Review Scale tab for a breakdown)

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